Le Demosterion de Roch le Baillif edelphe medecin spagiric. Sommaire veritable de la medecine Paracelsique, …Petit traite de lantiquite et singularites de Bretagne amorique.

Rennes, pour Pierre le Bret marchant libraire, demeurant audict lieu pres la porte S. Michel, 1578.


FIRST EDITION. Two parts in one. 4to. pp. [xvi], 190 [i.e. 202], without last blank. Two folding tables. ā4, ē4, A- M4, N8, O6, P-Z4, a4. Roman letter, some Italic. Small printer’s anchor device on both titles, floriated and grotesque woodcut initials, woodcut ornaments, chirographic woodcut, two large folding astrological tables, one on the 28 phases of the moon, the other on the conjunction of the planets, ms. exlibris on pastedown of B.E.J. Pagel, C19th bibliographical notes on fly. Light age yellowing, a few quires browned, some occasional spotting, original paper flaw in é4 with loss of a few letters in printing, tiny worm trail at gutter of second work. A good copy in early C19th half calf over blue paper boards, vellum corners, spine gilt ruled with tan morocco label, a little rubbed.

Very rare, first and only early edition of this most interesting alchemical treatise on spagyric medicine, complete with its second part, of particular interest in connection to the history of Brittany. Le Baillif was the personal physician to Henry I of Rohan in Brittany where he composed these two remarkable works. He was prosecuted by the Paris faculty of Medicine for his works, particularly the first work in this volume, the ‘Demosterion’, as they were not in conformity with the teachings of the Sorbonne. He was defended by Etienne Pasquier and finished by avoiding all condemnation. The faculty then published three works which called on the King to defend against charlatans. His works however were influential, particularly on the ‘Chimistes’ at the court of Henri IV.

In the first work Le Baillif ambitiously takes on the task of proposing a ‘sommaire véritable de la médecine paracelsique’. His dedication takes the form of a defence of Paraclesic medicine, not as a new form of medicine, but as medicine that rediscovers Hippocrates’ original intentions and methods. He gives a very methodical exposé of the fundamental principles of the doctrine, the four foundations of which are philosophy, astronomy, alchemy and virtue.He divides the work into five parts; three hundred aphorisms in French and Latin taken from Paraclesius, a brief discussion of magic, a dictionary of terms and finally a text on chiromancy.

The second work is of particular interest to the history of Brittany as in it Le Baillif gives the location of three ‘bains’ or sources containing minerals that, according to his theses, could cure a variety of illnesses. This was due to the particularly high mineral and metal content of these waters which Le Baillif claimed could cure such illnesses as paralysis or leprosy according to spagyric theory. He claims to have risked his life many times over in the search for these sources. The second source contained water that was so charged with ‘Taclh et amyanthe’ that when the sun shone it was difficult to keep yours eyes on it, so much it became mirror like. Its particularities make it a cure for contractions, and colic. He claims to have found traces of metals in the ‘Massif Armorican’ and that the waters from these hills would carry these metals and could cure illness because of their high metallic quality. He also made a study of the stones and fossils of the area including such things as ‘La dent Amorique’ or the ‘Crapudine’. These stones, it has been suggested, could have referred to fossilised teeth or even to neolithic arrowheads. Brunet ‘Livre rare et curieux, surtout a cause du dernier traite qu’on y trouve page 161 et suiv., et qui a pour titre Petit traite de l’antiquité et singularités de Bretagne amorique.’

Bernard Pagel FRS was a British astrophysicist, the son of physician and medical historian Walter Pagel and grandson of the renowned German physician Julius Pagel.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. 258. Brunet III 897. Welcome 3688. Durling 2746 (imperfect.) Caillet 6279. Not in Cantamessa or Osler.


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